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Leading Interfaith Activists Explore the Interfaith Movement

by Aaron Stauffer

RFFFPUSA and El-Hibri Foundation Celebrate Interfaith Harmony Week 2014

Religions for Peace USA and El-Hibri Foundation gathered some of the interfaith movements’ top leaders for a week’s worth of webinars to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014. All of the content is still available and free. So check it out! We think it pretty well represents the scope and depth and diversity of the interfaith movement today.

We started the week with Dr. Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Dr. Heidi Hadsell addressing the “Best Practices and Models of Interfaith Activism.” Dr. Abu-Nimer outlined five challenges that face the interfaith movement and articulated some strategies on how to overcome some of them. Issues of gender and youth inclusion in the interfaith movement was highlighted, along with the decline of traditional religious institutions in the U.S. But the movement is stronger and expanding more than one would to think.

On Tuesday, Dr. Ken Bedell of the U.S. Department of Education spoke about “The Role of the U.S. Government in the Interfaith Movement” and addressed the need to have greater government support on the peace-building issues that so many faith communities across the country hold close to their hearts and spend much of their time working for.

The Biggest Change

For 30 percent of people under 30, the still unaddressed question is the role of those who identify outside of and without religious affiliation: the nones and the nons, atheists, agnostics, and nonreligious. Chris Stedman and Ethan Bodnaruk addressed the issue on Wednesday. Following their lead were two bright lights of the interfaith movement: Beth Katz of Project Interfaith and its RavelUnravel, and Whittney Barth of the Pluralism Project. Beth and Whittney joined forces to discuss the challenges and opportunities found in using media to express one’s religious identity.

This was all in the first three days!

On Thursday we were joined by Rabbi Gerry Serotta and Imam Yahya Hendi, along with Dr. Jennifer Howe Peace and Rabbi Or Rose, discussing “Answering Tough Questions in Interfaith Dialogue” and “The Future of Interfaith in Higher Education,” respectively. A kernel from Dr. Peace and Rabbi Rose was the challenge of fully integrating the academy and the interfaith movement.

We finished the week strong with Dr. Patrice Brodeur, Director of Research, KAICIID Dialogue Centre. Interfaith is just beginning to get into the types of research and data analysis (defined variously as self-done, organic, traditional, and “big”) that it needs to flourish as a field. There are many moving parts to this step. Brodeur outlined a multi-year effort by the KAICIID Dialogue Centre to map the field in order to discover where and how to build capacity.

These were sustained, in-depth explorations of important and timely topics for the interfaith movement. Religions for Peace USA and the El-Hibri Foundation are proud to make it available to you still today.